Running the British 10K

Last Sunday, I ran the British 10K in London for an organisation called Sunseed Tanzania. This was my first running race since moving to the UK last September and the first time I’d ever run for charity.

Some of our team before the race

Some of our team before the race

The race bills itself as the “Largest non-televised 10K road race in the UK,” a rather searching claim, with too many qualifiers to be that impressive for me. Nevertheless, it truly is a massive race.

Also, it’s quite odd.

Here, then, is the good, the bad and the weird as I experienced it:

The Good:

Beautiful course!

I could describe it, but the pictures in this post probably make the point more effectively.

Lots of water available

It turned out that the day of the race was one of the hottest so far this year in London, so the water was unexpectedly necessary. There were at least three, maybe four, water stations, which seemed rather a lot for so short a race. I’m not sure the exact number of stations because I actually only ended up taking from the first station, as they were handing out large bottles, and not just little cups.

The Bad: 

Behold the madding (and casual) crowds!

Behold the madding (and casual) crowds!

No organisation of the start.

Given that there were reportedly up to 25,000 registered runners who, no doubt, spanned the full spectrum of athletic ability, even a minimal amount of corralling runners at the start by expected time would have been helpful. Instead, everyone’s placement at the start was based purely on how early they’d turned up in the morning, which has little correlation with running pace. As a result, I spent at least the first 2 kilometres bobbing in and out of the crowds, hopping up onto the pavement where possible, and generally trying to avoid  running into walkers and slower runners.

No clocks along the route.

The only clock anywhere was at the finish, and even then, that didn’t tell me what my real time was, as there was no clock at the start to tell us how long it had taken us to get up to the starting line. This meant is was very difficult to keep track of your pace (I suppose the race organisers decided that anyone who doesn’t own a GPS watch must not care that much about their race pace), but even if there had been clocks along the route, it wouldn’t have helped that much anyway…

Empty goody bag

After crossing the finish line, I was handed a bottle of water, followed by a bottle of Gatorade, and then what I presumed to be a goody bag. After exiting the finishing chute, I eagerly opened my bag, expecting to find some sort of swag and post-race sustenance. But lo, all I found inside was a flyer advertising a product called “Tiger Balm” and a baseball cap with said product’s logo emblazoned thereupon. Well, at least the bag was nice.

The Weird:

Random distance markers

I’ll allow that I might have missed a distance marker in the first few kilometres as I was intently focused on the crowd of runners through which I had to navigate. But for the rest of the race, I was free to scan my surroundings. Quizzically, the only distance markers I saw along the route were at kilometres 5 & 6. If you’re only going to have two distance markers, why put them so close together? Better yet, why not just have more distance markers? In any case, this combined with the lack of clocks, made it rather difficult to calibrate one’s pace.

Yep, that's how they marked the course

Yep, that’s how they marked the course

Tight turns

Even when looking at the route of the race on a map, something looks a bit odd. Rather than graceful loops or a quick succession of 90-degree turns, the course featured no fewer than three turn-around points where the course literally doubled-back on itself and went down the other side of the road. These rather sharp bends in the course were marked by a lamppost, a cone, or in the case of the turnaround point on Westminster bridge, a vintage bus.

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